Live Review: Love Supreme at The Roundhouse

Love Supreme at The Roundhouse

The Roundhouse, London

Saturday 13th April, 2019

Love Supreme continue to expand the brand by bringing an all-day jamboree of jazz-and-related-musics to the Roundhouse, following their success last year. That event was dominated by the emergent New London Jazz scene – this year’s different, highly diverse line-up provides an interesting snapshot into where we are a year later.

Representing the old school, Hexagonal are in the packed upstairs bar for Jazz In The Round, silhouetted against the busy Chalk Farm Road and showing the youngsters in the crowd how it’s done. It’s a tight, punchy 45 minute exploration of the inexorably grooving, powerfully melodic legacy of leader John Donaldson’s twin muses McCoy Tyner and Bheki Mseleku, with a tight and punchy big band sound from the three-horn frontline, Jazz FM-nominated Jason Yarde on alto leading the soloists in playing tag-team over Tristan Bank’s hyperactively flexible drumming. It’s the tradition at its most imposing and accessible.

Downstairs at the Supreme Standards stage the small theatre fills up for Dowdelin’s super-soulful Kreol-inflected electro-pop, spiced with caribbean flavours and rooted by Raphael Philibert’s Gwa-Ko drumming. Singer Olyvia has plenty of understated but poised star quality and producer David Kiledjian acquits himself creditably on sax for additional jazz input.

No-one would ever accuse Judi Jackson of understatement, but she certainly has plenty of star quality. She fills the big room upstairs with her personality, in fishnets and wispily draped scarlet gauze, howling her way through a histrionic version of Sinner Man while exuding manic charisma all over the stage. Fortunately she has ample vocal ability to back it up, able to go from intimate to gospel overdrive in a moment with perfect intonation, but despite her excellent young band’s best efforts there’s a dearth of really memorable material to hang all the talent upon.

Layfullstop dispenses with a band altogether in favour of the classic inscrutably nodding DJ; she lays outa crisp, London accented singjay act, her agile delivery and stage presence contrasting with the laid back Baduizms of her vintage soul and jazz derived backing, to universal appreciation from the capacity crowd.

Back upstairs in the bar, Liran Donin furnishes unfortunate proof of the old adage about everyone talking through bass solos; you have to push to the front to appreciate his virtuosic Avishai Cohen stylings, supported by an outstanding band of young UK players, noteably Josh Arcoleo on tenor; with the help of some sterling work from drummer Ben Brown he ends up winning the day.

No such problems beset Melt Yourself Down; their punky art-skronk has one dynamic level – full-on – and their frontman Kushal Gayan is all un- ignorable passionate intensity. In their matching boiler suits under the stark lighting they’re like a throwback to the days of Gang Of Four agit-funk, fitting for our Marxist-retro political climate,
but in amongst the austere skronks and angular driving grooves there’s room for catchy hooks and one sing-along even sounds like an early 80s New Wave chart hit. Pete Wareham looks like a cross between a Gaucho garage mechanic and
an Inquisition Cardinal in his overalls and signature hat.

Back at the Jazz In The Round, Alina Bzezhinska has packed such a crowd in to hear her new trio that it’s impossible to move. Who would have thought that jazz harp could be such a draw? She lays out the Alice Coltrane/ Dorothy Ashby moves with her usual aplomb to rapturous reception. Meanwhile new kids on the grime/jazz fusion block Neue Grafik delight the crowd with a tight, punchy set featuring the talents of Emma- Jean Thackray on trumpet and Vels Trio’s Dougal Taylor.

Kamaal Williams offers his customary four-to-the-floor jam session
in the big room upstairs, laced with shout-outs to such 90s icons as 4Hero and Bugz In The Attic, but the low end gets lost in the cavernous space and much of the vibe goes with it. Jay Phelps’ contributions as surprise guest on trumpet add some jazz virtuosity and some welcome focus.

Laura Mvula’s engineer isn’t daunted by the challenge of the Roundhouse’s legendarily difficult acoustic and the sound is clear and massive. Her band is scaled back to an all-star trio of Oli Rockburger, Troy Miller and Yolanda Charles, and she stands well forward, a tiny figure in white, armed only with her keytar and her huge voice. The mass keyboard textures point out her music’s essential kinship to the ambitious pop of Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush – the band are simply terrific, and the resulting impression is slick and powerful. In between she chats to the crowd like a true pop star. We’ve travelled a fair distance from jazz as it’s often understood, but this broad church approach is what Love Supreme does best, and no-one seems to be complaining.

Eddie Myer